1.10 - Virgin Bet Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (2m)
A few of these contenders arrive with questions against them - the likes of Seventeen O Four and Arthur's Seat for example - while Show On The Road needs to build on a positive return to action last month at Exeter.
The pair of most interest are both aided by 10lb claiming riders, with Bradley Harris on board Global Agreement for Milton Harris and Jay Tidball taking the perch on Alastair Ralph's THE GREY FALCO.
The former has won 3-5 this season and may go well again, though his improvement has come on more testing ground than this. The yard is having a fine season.
The Grey Falco was seemingly improved for a wind op when scoring at Haydock (1m7½f, soft) in January. The handicapper nudged him up only 2lb for that win and, allowing for the claim, he's effectively 8lb lower now so can hardly ask for a better place to build.
Selection: The Grey Falco
Next Best: Global Agreement
1.45 - 'Ubique' Handicap Chase (1m7½f)
It's only 11 days since Douglas Talking made a winning bow over fences for Lucinda Russell and, on that form, he looks like a leading contender again. He jumped well and made most of the running suggesting there is scope for progress from him in this code.
Darebin is a three-time winner over C&D for Gary Moore and has run well here this season from his current mark, so he's not crossed off, while Somekindofstar won at Fakenham last month despite being hampered at a stage and seemingly was benefitting from being dropped back to this sort of trip for the first time.
DESQUE DE L'ISLE made a winning return to action (after wind op) at Ffos Las (2m, soft) in November and was perhaps unfortunate to be put up 10lb for it. Venetia Williams' runner has remained consistent in four starts since that score and has inched back down 4lb along the way. With the yard in such fine fettle, he seems sure to go close again.
Selection: Desque De L'isle
Next Best: Douglas Talking
2.20 - Weatherbys Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide Jane Seymour Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2, 2m4f)
LOVE ENVOI took the inaugural running of the Winter Million Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Lingfield (2m, heavy) last month for Harry Fry and Johnny Burke, taking her record to 4-4 under rules in the process.
The Westerner mare took up the running three out that afternoon and maintained a strong gallop all the way to the line, repelling the challenge of hitherto unbeaten Dan Skelton-mare Nurse Susan in the process. That win was over two-miles on heavy ground, but both of her earlier hurdles scores came at this trip and going back up in distance shouldn't pose any worries. She merits this rise in class and could be a very hard nut to crack.
Despite being turned over at Haydock in December by the re-opposing Haute Estime from the Lucinda Russell yard, Alan King's Nina The Terrier is the benchmark on form. The winner was game that afternoon, in receipt of 3lb, but has a 5lb swing to contend with here having only held sway by a half-length.
Smart bumper performer Coquelicot got her first success over hurdles at Chepstow (2m7½f, soft) in November, making every yard of the running at fairly sedate fractions. This is tougher over a shorter trip but the long steady climb up the home straight should tease out her stamina and she has scope for better.
Speech Bubble fits a similar billing after readily obliging in a Newcastle novice last month for Noel Williams on only her second start over timber.
Though a line through her Lingfield conqueror Russian Rumour strictly does leave her with work to do in regards to Haute Estime and Nina The Terrier, she ran well in a Listed bumper at this venue last spring (second) and should come forward.
Selection: Love Envoi
Next Best: Speech Bubble
2.55 - Castel Royal Artillery Gold Cup (Chase For Military Amateur Jockeys, 3m)
Just the four contenders here and none are crossed off easily. Rolling Dylan was in good enough tune prior to last month's Veterans' final over C&D but he was disappointing there and needs a rebound. This is not as tough, so he has his chance.
Similarly, Ballycross was pulled up at Bangor last month on his first start since May. Nicky Henderson's charge perhaps was in need of that run and if he can find the peak of last season's form, he will be in the mix.
It's a long while since Diplomate Sivola was spotted on the racecourse proper but he's been doing good work in point-to-points since joining this trainer.
HOGAN'S HEIGHT didn't fire in either the Sefton or Becher Chases at Aintree earlier in the season but those were a pair of tough assignments and Jamie Snowden's charge duly did take advantage of a class-drop when winning a Ludlow Hunters Chase (3m, good to soft) last month in a pair of first-time cheekpieces (retained now).
He was facing a challenge when left alone at the last, but might have been set to win regardless, and he had two fair sorts left filling the places behind him. This looks a good opportunity for the follow-up.
Selection: Hogan's Height
Next Best: Ballycross
3.30 - Virgin Bet 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle (2m)
Hurdles winners Hidor De Bersy and Monviel are respected despite conceding their 7lb penalties to the field here. Preference from that duo is for the former, Tom Symonds' charge seemingly having the stronger form on paper at this point.
Braveheart has shown flashes of ability and could do better post wind surgery for Jamie Snowden but hurdles debutant OPERATION MANNA gets the nod for the Tom Lacey yard.
He was seemingly destined to be totally outpaced in a Worcester bumper on debut in August but he stuck to his task in the home straight and eventually moved through rivals to get the verdict with a powerful surge late on.
Far from the strongest of form, but the second did land a bumper/maiden hurdle double in September so it's not the worst either. Though he might eventually want a longer trip, the nature of this venue should play towards his stamina and he could be interesting on his first jumping test.
Selection: Operation Manna
Next Best: Hidor De Bersy
4.05 - Virgin Bet Handicap Chase (For The Alan Brooke Challenge Cup, 3m)
A mix of stuff here, with veterans Potters Legend and A Toi Phil having to prove themselves at this juncture, ensuring preference goes to younger legs.
Poppa Poutine delivered a much-improved showing on third chase start at Wincanton last month in a Novices' Handicap Chase, just failing to collar Eragon De Chanay on the line with the pair well clear of the remainder. The winner was getting plenty of weight and has run well since.
That accounted for, DR KANANGA is the pick. He's had five starts over fences in his fledgling career and was winning for the second time when he obliged at Chepstow (3m2f, soft) earlier this month, justifying favouritism with a good display from the front and eased down late on by Ben Jones.
The handicapper has taken swift action - he's 12lb higher here - but he looks capable of progress on that effort and could be hard to handle if
Selection: Dr Kananga
Next Best: Poppa Poutine
4.40 - Virgin Bet Novices' Handicap Hurdle (2m4f)
The eye is quickly drawn to Olly Murphy's CONTEMPLATEMYFAITH in this finale. After two decent efforts in novice company at Lingfield and Newcastle late last year, he opened his account in a maiden at Bangor (2m3½f, soft) last month under Aidan Coleman.
The front pair were a long way clear and the Donald McCain-trained second, Barrowdale, has since won a maiden at Uttoxeter by half the track. An opening mark of 116 may underestimate this six-year-old.
Connections will hope Essential Jaco and Amenon can figure amongst the dangers but second choice is Grangeclare Glory, for the David Pipe team.
His last two runs at Taunton and Doncaster have been promising, finishing third in both, and the formlines have been enhanced since. Blinkers are added here and he's got a chance.
Next Best: Grangeclare Glory
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